By Kevin Sweeney
Luke Kennard had 24 points, and a depleted Duke team never trailed in a 75-65 win over Rhode Island in the championship game of the Hall Of Fame Tip-Off held at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT.
With the Blue Devils missing star-studded freshman trio of Marques Bolden, Jayson Tatum, and Harry Giles, depth was a concern coming into the game, but Duke managed to use just 7 players and still have no problems with the 21st-ranked Rams.
The game was tight throughout the first half, with both teams struggling to get things going on offense. The Rams shot just 36% from the field, while the Blue Devils made just 38% of their shots. Hassan Martin continued to provide energy for the Rams, blocking 3 shots in the first half to amp up a pro-URI crowd. However, Duke finished the half on a 6-0 run to take some momentum into halftime, leading 34-26 at the break.
The second half was all Blue Devils from the beginning. They quickly extended their lead to 14, and picked things up on offense, knocking down 60% of their shots in the second half. The Rams conceded numerous offensive rebounds that led to Duke buckets, which seemed to drain the momentum from the crowd. Duke was able to control the tempo, not allowing URI to get out and get easy buckets in transition. They got very little production from anyone other than Martin and Jared Terrell, who had 22 points. The outcome was never really in doubt during the second half, with URI unable to cut the deficit to single digits at any point down the stretch.
All 5 starters for Duke scored in double figures, with Amile Jefferson posting a double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Matt Jones added 13 for the Blue Devils. Martin had 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 blocks for the Rams.
Duke is back in action on Wednesday against William & Mary, while URI returns home Friday for a matchup with Belmont.